John Tortorella is all gone, as Trevor Linden stands alone

On May 1 of last year, the Canucks played their first game of the 2013 postseason. Roberto Luongo was the starting netminder, backed up by Cory Schneider. Alain Vigneault, Rick Bowness and Newell Brown patrolled the benches. Mike Gillis watched from his suite overhead.

One year later to the day, it’s all gone. Those coaches have long since moved on. No Luongo. No Schneider. No Gillis. No playoffs.

Instead, on May 1 of this year, Trevor Linden sat alone at the podium in the Rogers Arena press room, calmly explaining the decision to relieve John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan of their duties so soon after they arrived that they didn’t even get even a mention in the year-old flashback that opened this piece.

The most telling statement of Linden’s presser came before he’d even said a word, when he strode to the podium all by himself. The last time we saw him at that podium, he was sitting next to owner Francesco Aquilini, who remains the man in charge here. But the fans have soured on Francesco, and he knows it, which is why he’s wisely decided to remove himself from the picture and fill it instead with a man that gets them all moony. (All moony. All Mooney is a different thing, and it does nothing for the people of Vancouver, I assure you.)

Trevor. Forget that Laurence Gilman and Lorne Henning remain in AGM positions, Stan Smyl and Ron Delorme are still scouting, and Glen Gulutzan, who presided over that dreadful powerplay play, is still a part of the coaching staff. Just focus on Trevor. Look into his eyes and he saunters in, all handsome with his designer frames and his casual salt-and-pepper five o’clock shadow, and let the frustration at what’s become of this franchise in such a short span of time melt away.

That was then. Linden is now. Say, did you know Trevor rhymes with forever? Imagine if that’s how long you renewed your season tickets for? Wouldn’t that be a neat tribute to Vancouver’s favourite son?

Don’t kid yourself. For many season ticket holders, the coolest part of the letter they received from Trevor Linden this morning explaining that John Tortorella would be staying out East was that they got a letter from Trevor Linden.

“As a Season Ticket Member,” he wrote, “I know you are deeply invested in our team and I wanted to connect with you personally.”


“This is all about looking to the future and creating a new vision,” said Linden, and that’s true in part, but really, it’s more about looking to the recent past and destroying any trace of it. This was the last step in a scorched earth policy.

Linden said several times that the decision to dismiss Tortorella came after considering a bunch of factors, and I’m sure it did. But the biggest factor is the way the fans soured on the leadership, and the direction it was taking this franchise. It’s why Mike Gillis had to go. It’s why, in the end, Tortorella had to go.

”Starting with a clean slate is important,” Linden told the assembled media, echoing what he said in the morning’s letter about a “fresh start”, and where that begins:

It starts with how we shape our management and coaching staffs and the roster improvements we’re able to make. Our goal is to be back in the playoffs next spring as we continue developing this group into a team that can challenge for the Stanley Cup.

We’re also committed to making it exciting to watch Canucks games throughout the season. A Season Ticket Member sent me a message recently saying, ‘We all want ‘The Cup’ of course but we also want to enjoy the ride too.’ We’re going to do everything we can to make that happen. We want to put a team on the ice that creates buzz and anticipation in the city on game days.

Granted, you could argue that this weird, entitled season ticketholder might do well to replace Cup with cake and enjoy the ride with eat it, so as to better realize how big his demands are.

But after what Tortorella did to this team this year, putting the fanbase to sleep, treating the stars like his rescue dogs by neutering them, and turning the team into a sideshow — yet somehow, a boring sideshow, which is crazy, since sideshows are usually pretty entertaining — there was no way that the Canucks could create any buzz or anticipation by announcing he’d be returning. This was the only play.

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  1. whisky jack
    May 1, 2014

    The Rangers and the Raptors won
    And now it’s clear that Torts is done
    Our baseball team is eight and “O”
    That’s all the news I need to know

    I care not for a missing plane
    Or the unrest now in Ukraine
    And there is nothing I can do
    Will temper hatred of the Jew

    I keep my garden free of weeds
    And help a bit with others’ needs
    I watch Sportsnet and TSN
    The History Channel now and then

    And thus I keep my sanity
    Sans hope for humanity

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  2. Noodle
    May 1, 2014

    Dear Harrison,

    Your description of Linden’s “hot” letter had me chuckling in my office. Will you take responsibility when I get fired due to your reckless tomfoolery?!

    Also, “sideshows are usually pretty entertaining”? Don’t encourage those click bait scammers(*cough*Bleacher Report*cough*).

    Oh and another thi….

    /gets lost in Trevor’s dreamy eyes

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  3. ikillchicken
    May 1, 2014

    “Granted, you could argue that this weird, entitled season ticketholder might do well to replace Cup with cake and enjoy the ride with eat it, so as to better realize how big his demands are.”

    You could argue that. But I would argue that the only “weird” thing is that people actually keep watching hockey if they think this way. I mean, I see where you’re coming from. We all really want to win the cup. And that’s hard enough without also adding further qualifiers about the way we play. But if we honestly believe that winning and being entertaining are mutually exclusive, we all should just give up. Hockey is a lost cause. The entire enterprise is an excessive in futility. I mean, for goodness sake, take a step back for a minute. Take a step back and ask yourself: What is even the point of being a sports fan if you don’t enjoy the games? Even if your team does win the cup, why do you even care to begin with? I want the Canucks to win the Cup. Desperately. I want this because I am a fan. But, and this is the key point here, I am a fan because I enjoy watching hockey. It is, or was, an entertaining experience. That’s what draws me to hockey in the first place. And if I don’t derive enjoyment out of “the ride” then I really must wonder why am I even here. There’s no sane reason for me to be invested in this pastime at all.

    So no. Hoping to be entertained AND to win the Cup is not trying to have your cake and eat it too. Being entertained is the absolute baseline of what I should be getting out of hockey. The only “weird” thing here is that some people are so caught up in the idea of winning the cup that they’ve forgotten why they care to to begin with: Because hockey is enjoyable.

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    • peanutflower
      May 1, 2014

      Clap clap clap. Exactly. That being said, I was vastly more entertained watching the style of hockey we were privileged to watch for a whole season and then some in 2010/2011 than I was this year, Cup or not, and what looks to be a repeat style of hockey this year in the SCF. I swear, that was the most wonderful hockey I have ever seen the Canucks or pretty much any team other than the Red Wings play. I would settle for not winning in return for another season like that.

      On another note, I inwardly cringed to hear Trevor’s “biz speak” in his presser. I mean, really, there should be a rule never to use over-used cringeworthy phrases like “drill down.” I value originality. Come on, Trevor, no more of that nonsense.

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      • akidd
        May 2, 2014

        yes, peanutflower that 10/11 season was quite the eye-candy indeed. velcro puck and stickblades. i can’t recall a single blunder. 10-0 every game wasn’t it? burrows had 7 hat-tricks in a row and kesler scored 410 gaols. that’s how i remember it anyway.

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    • AC
      May 1, 2014

      Thank you.
      I was thinking the exact same thing, but there’s no way I could have put it as eloquently as you did.
      Thank you for giving voice to reasonable expectations.

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    • akidd
      May 2, 2014

      nice post, ikc. absolutely fans should have a say in what kind of hockey they want to watch. it goes way beyond winning. sure maybe some newbie fanbases like nashville are happy with just the scoreboard but as taste matures it’s definitely about how you play the game. and hopefully in a just world playing the right way is rewarded with success.

      and playing negative hockey might not be the way to win anymore anyway. those big trends are neat to watch. if soccer is a bigger, faster-advancing system from which we can partly predict future trends in hockey then this article is pretty neat:

      apparently the possession game(barca, spain, bayern munich) is done, along with the defensive shell(chelsea) and the finals are between two counter-attacking teams( the madrids.) just saying that there are tons of sports fans all over the world pretty concerned with style. and you can win and be entertaining(munch, munch.) haven’t you heard of schrodinger’s cake?

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      May 2, 2014

      Solid take, IKC. I agree in sentiment, and also agree with peanutflower in that the 2011 was a great ride not only because of how far we made it, but the way it was done. It was the journey as much as the destination that inspired the city. It was the near nightly Wizardous Sedinerie, the Kesler Beast Mode moments, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it power play, Vezina calibre goaltending from Luongo. It was the freewheeling style, fearsome depth, defensive balance and a host of other exciting attributes that made that team so special. It wasn’t dumping and chasing or shot-blocking, which may be important in context but shouldn’t be the foundation of any team’s strategy like they were this past season. If all I cared about was wins and losses and not how they were achieved, I would just check the box scores the next day.

      However, I’m not sure there’s anything sane about being emotionally invested in a pro sports team. It’s more like an addiction, something that gives you your highs but is also capable of delivering depressing lows. Like an addiction, people tend to know they’d be better off without it during the painful low points but are powerless to stop watching. How else to explain the legions of hardcore Canucks fans who have stuck with the team through heartbreak after heartbreak? Just consider the word “fan”. When first coined, it was short for “fancier”, defined as “a connoisseur or enthusiast”. Nowadays, it is considered to be short for “fanatic”, defined as “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal”. Hardcore hockey fans are most definitely predominantly the latter, unable to stop even if they wanted to. I think that’s why the entertainment value and success are sometimes seen to be at odds, because the addicts needing their fix can get it from a boring “W” but not an exciting “L”.

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  4. Lemming
    May 1, 2014

    I watched a lot this year, and I have to say, I was thoroughly entertained.
    I liked Torts. He may not have been the coach the team needed, but he was the entertaining figure the team needed.
    My god, good times.

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  5. chocoball
    May 1, 2014

    Mooney, I think you underestimate just how moony you are. :)

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  6. akidd
    May 2, 2014

    a chuckle-inducing little read. nice one, harrsion. but don’t let chris make you hup-to. i figured you guys were just lying low…recuperating, you know. like what more is there to say about what happened last year? not much point, yammering on about the calgary game or something is there? just gotta let your eyes roll back into your head for a few weeks and then start fresh.

    you deserved the rest. we all did. but now you’ve opened up the linden box. and there’s new jokes to be made. so might as well get going. i’m just glad he’s got the blinking under control because that could’ve become difficult had it gone on. it doesn’t really matter to me what he says, as long i don’t have to decipher secret morse code messages at the same time. because i don’t read morse and i thought on hnic that he might be trying to tell us something important, like maybe the aquilinis had a doomsday device and were planning something…ba dum dum….

    and i’m not so sure about those designer frames. i think they make his nose look crooked. just me?…chirp….chirp….

    …kidding, kidding, love trev, love trev…

    but there should be no shortage of new canuck stuff to bs about. that’s for sure. that’s half your entertainment battle right there.

    trev’s got it right so far. out with torts. wants to play entertaining hockey. the goal is the playoffs. sounds pretty good to me. mclellan for coach, benning and gilman as co gm’s, and the skilled swede in the draft. drop the puck already.

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    • Chris the Curmudgeon
      May 2, 2014

      Hopefully Harrison has thick enough skin that a bit of mild criticism from a stranger, even a disarmingly charming one such as myself, won’t affect his life too much.

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      • Harrison Mooney
        May 2, 2014

        Ha. Applying the phrase “disarmingly charming” to oneself is a very disarmingly charming thing to do, come to think of it.

        And yes, I do have thick, beautiful, skin.

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        • Chrìs
          May 3, 2014

          Is that why you also write for yahoo? :)

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  7. Brent
    May 2, 2014

    I can’t believe Linden is drinking Hedrick Sedin!

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